COLUMN: Where is the proof that open-carry laws result in less crime?
On Tuesday, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a measure that allows Oklahomans to openly carry handguns beginning Nov. 1. Senate Bill 1733 not only allows anyone with a license to carry firearms to do so openly under the Oklahoma Self Defense Act, but also allows a property owner to openly carry a handgun on his or her land without a concealed carry permit.
Falin announced her support for the bill Saturday in front of 1,400 delegates at the Oklahoma Republican State Convention, and she said she’s been “waiting a long time” to sign the bill.
Dayton Clark, The Oklahoma Daily
I can’t help it — every time I think about open-carry laws I have visions of the Wild West. I picture a saloon or one of those town hall meetings with tension in the air and everyone in the room packing some kind of firepower, usually a six-shooter strapped to their hip. I believe in the principles behind the Second Amendment and U.S. citizen’s right to possess firearms. However, I can’t say the thought of having more guns openly carried on the street is one that makes me feel more comfortable and secure.
There is just something about that whole Wild West association. The word “wild” is an allusion to an atmosphere of chaos and anarchy. This inspires images of people walking around with twitchy trigger fingers emulating Doc Holliday or Wild Bill Hickok. It is not an image that engenders peace of mind.
George Zimmerman’s recent actions lead to the shooting and death of an unarmed 17-year-old. This overenthusiastic “neighborhood watch captain” carried a firearm against the advice of police and against the guidelines of the watch association.
The recent case of Jerome Ersland, the Oklahoma pharmacist who gunned down and incapacitated an armed robber before finishing him off with killshots, also demonstrates that under duress and with firearms in play, people often make rash, panicky decisions based on a gut reaction rather than calculated risks. Ersland landed himself in prison.
These incidents obviously did not make much of an impression on the state Legislature. It is hard for me to get my head around the idea that putting more guns in the hands of more amateur vigilantes is going to lead to less crime, less reactionary misjudgments or less unnecessary shootings.
I have both read and listened to many of the talking points and arguments in favor of open-carry laws. I have even endured the over-the-top jabbering of people like Ted Nugent. I have been to gun shows and read the posters, bumper stickers and T-shirts. But, I still don’t get how putting more guns in the hands of more non-professionals is going to make the job of law enforcement easier or how the law will solve anything else.
There’s an old saying, “Give a man a rope and he’ll wanna be a cowboy.” If a person is carrying around a stick or a knife or any kind of weapon, oftentimes, at least at some subconscious level, he or she is looking for an excuse to use it. People tend to be good at finding reasons to bring out their weapons.
I have to wonder why the concealed-carry laws were not enough to appease people who are concerned with the Second Amendment and gun laws. Those concerned already get to carry guns in public — they just can’t show them off. Why do they have this article of faith that more open displays of firearms are going to allow for less crime? This faith is maintained in the absence of hard data or large scale, conclusive studies proving their case.
Sure, there are instances where crime tapered in places which allowed the concealed carry of firearms and there are some good stories that support these claims. The thing is that in other places the rates of violent crimes increased as much as double. There also are plenty of stories of folly to support that having more guns leads to having more violence.
In researching this topic I just didn’t find anything that would support the basic gun lobby stance that putting more guns on the street, even in the hands of more educated people, makes violent crime rates go down. In Oklahoma, the polls are split on the question.
According to a poll published in the Tulsa World in 2011, people with higher levels of education tend to think that open carry laws are a bad idea. I know someone is going to accuse me of being an academic elitist or a dupe of the “liberal media,” but I am going to agree with the educated.
I just don’t believe that putting more guns in the hands of more people is a good idea and you shouldn’t either. Now that this law is signed, we should hold our lawmakers accountable by making them prove it works in favor of Oklahomans and if doesn’t we should pressure them to repeal it.
Scott Starr is a Native American studies senior.